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Rep. Judy Solano introduced a bill this year, HB 12-1049, the “Parental Rights Regarding Statewide Ed Assessment” bill.  This bill would allow parents the right to opt out their children from the CSAP/TCAP without repercussions aimed at their child, teacher or school.

Why is this important?  Plainly and simply, the stakes have become too high regarding the CSAP/TCAP, and consequently, school leaders and districts have adopted a punitive attitude toward families and students who choose to opt out.  School curriculums are now firmly focused toward teaching to the test, and CSAP scores are used to close schools and fire teachers, even in populations who are not linguistically ready to take the test.

According to a Pueblo elementary school parent, for example, the principal is actually punishing children (whose) parents have opted out of CSAP. The principal is withholding recess and keeping them out of events due to the parents decision.

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Another Colorado parent writes:

I have now opted out my children for four years and am still pretty involved in our school district…the schools are supported with OUR tax dollars, so we have EVERY right to have a say in how those monies are spent.

But its amazing what her high school is telling the kids (about opting out of CSAP): You can’t graduate and you can’t get into college. (emphasis mine)

They’re saying if we don’t come in tomorrow or have a doctor’s note for all absences, all of my children will be “withdrawn” from the school. We’re in IOWA (for a family funeral)!! This is all about CSAP and their bitterness towards me for exercising my right to opt my kids out and my right of free speech.

As Diane Ravitch, an education historian, former supporter of No Child Left Behind and outspoken critic of high-stakes testing, says, “No high-performing nation tests its students every year or uses student test scores to evaluate teacher quality.”  Parents are making serious and informed decisions about curriculum for their kids, and they know what’s best for their children.

A parent in the Poudre Valley school district is taking matters into her own hands:

We are opt-out parents in Poudre School District. After considering the options, we have decided (our children) will ride the bus to school next week with their peers, stay in the front office during CSAP, and then join their schoolmates when actual learning commences at 9:10 am. They will have books to read while at school, and their time there will likely be more productive than at home, which is the alternative.

I suspect by reading books their time will actually be more productive than their schoolmates taking the state-mandated high-stakes standardized testing. Most productive of all would be if they and everyone else were actually getting instruction and learning to analyze information and think critically, instead of taking tests designed to fail lower-performing schools and turn them into for-profit charter schools, part of the overall ideological assault on public education in the hopes of turning our precious children into a commoditized profit center for educational corporations.

And it appears that the pressure exerted upon so-called virtual school families may even be worse.  Online school parents are reporting intimidation and suspension of access to grades, etc., when they choose to opt out their children from CSAP.  This is ironic, since many of these parents have reacted to promised of flexibility when choosing these schools in the first place.

My daughter is a student at Colorado Virtual Academy.  For years, I’ve allowed the administration at my daughter’s school to intimidate and threaten me into forcing my daughter to take the CSAP. My daughter has a 504 plan and is exempt from testing, if it is too stressful. She has severe Panic / Anxiety Disorder, and her panic attacks center around school and testing. Regardless, a school administrator told me my daughter wouldn’t be welcome back the next year if she didn’t take the CSAP. The same administrator told me how to have my daughter cheat on the test so that the test would still count, but it wouldn’t be as stressful on my  daughter.

And another COVA parent writes:

“..yesterday COVA (Colorado Virtual Academy) has shut off all access to my son’s school. I cannot log attendance, have him take any assessments after we complete lessons or have my son complete any “online only” lessons. I am being forced to call in and ask for permission to school my son. The last letter that I received stated that if I didn’t reschedule a time for my son to take the CSAP, I would be forced to meet with administration and my son would have to undergo rigorous testing. I am not interested in putting my son through any of this. They have taken away the “Internet Service Provider” reimbursement for the coming school year also. That actually cracks me up- my convictions about my son taking the CSAPs are not for sale. Getting a check for $120 bucks is not going to do anything. I am now forced to call the school and again explain that no means no. I am worried how this will turn out. I hope that I can get on with schooling my son ASAP. I am not totally sure where to go after today if they insist on meeting face to face first before they allow my son to continue going to school.

It’s for these reasons, and a myriad more, Rep. Solano’s bill is vital, and it’s time for parents to get involved.

So here’s your opportunity.  HB1049 has been scheduled for its first hearing before a committee on Thursday, February 9.  The House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee meets immediately after the whole House adjourns its session, or roughly at 9:30 a.m., in room 0112 in the ground floor of the state capitol building.

Can you join in and show support, either by testifying or by simply helping to fill up the room?

Uniting4Kids has prepared a great guide on how to testify, and you can read it here.

Also, please take time to sign the petition and send a note to the members of the State Affairs committee, urging them to vote yes on this bill.